The Blue Aeroplanes “Welcome Stranger !” (Independent, 2017)

The Blue Aeroplanes return with their most stable line-up to date to proffer up a collection of agitprop poetry set to jangly indie rock. Lead singer, poet and founder member Gerard Langley remains unimpressed by the whole music business model; his thoughts are delivered with an uncompromising aggressiveness – and if the listener doesn’t like it then the listener can take a hike. This is art, and it doesn’t have to explain itself, it doesn’t need to be comfortable – maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll agree with it, maybe you won’t: either way why should The Blue Aeroplanes care? Continue reading “The Blue Aeroplanes “Welcome Stranger !” (Independent, 2017)”

Arborist “Home Burial” (Kirkinrola Records, 2016)

This is a most impressive debut by the Northern Irish band. It’s an Americana soufflé wearing its graft and craft lightly, the apparent effortlessness coming at the price of hard work and talent. There is substance and quality at work here. The word artisan is apposite, the songs flowing like an Anthony Hopkins performance, art without artifice, a direct connection, no obfuscation, just an immediate contact with the essence of the songs. There’s no barrier between the listener and the pleasure to be had from the songs. Continue reading “Arborist “Home Burial” (Kirkinrola Records, 2016)”

Tim Houlihan “Another Orion’ (Independent, 2016)

Tim Houlihan has a voice made for country music and a grasp of a broad range of Americana styles. If he wasn’t a veteran of the scene this would sound like a perfect calling card for Nashville. ‘I Get Lonesome Too’ is the type of song that would be an enormous hit if it reached the right artist and featured in a film or on TV. ‘Send Me Back To You’ puts pedal to metal and Houlihan sounds uncannily like Billy Joel belting out a country rocker. The title track gets a little bit experimental (within limits) with the burble of electronics before hushed acoustics bring on the big ballad. Houlihan does everything without affectation, with enthusiasm and skill; it’s almost enough to sweep the listener away. Continue reading “Tim Houlihan “Another Orion’ (Independent, 2016)”

Rami and the Whale “Rami and the Whale” (Wooded Shrine Recordings, 2016)

This is a solo album from Swedish singer songwriter Rasmus Blomqvist. It is a mainly acoustic offering which is dark, introspective, melancholy and brooding perhaps reflecting those dark Swedish winter nights. The songs were written over a period of ten years and recorded in what is referred to as a “poor people’s home”. Continue reading “Rami and the Whale “Rami and the Whale” (Wooded Shrine Recordings, 2016)”

The Great Western Tears “Tales From Tallows” (Independent, 2016)

Back in May of 2015 I reviewed the debut EP from Oxford’s The Great Western Tears giving it a big thumbs up and noting them as a band to watch out for. Well here’s the album and thankfully they haven’t let me down as it’s a very fine listen indeed. They remain a band who are steeped in the ethos of country music but there’s little of the Ameripolitan ambition which fuelled their song The Late Great Man In Black on the EP. Instead, the songs are intimate ruminations, late night musings, acoustically based with Kurt Hamilton’s pedal steel adding atmosphere. Continue reading “The Great Western Tears “Tales From Tallows” (Independent, 2016)”

Greg Halpin “Notes from a Bedroom” (Independent, 2016)

Greg-Halpin-2016The debut solo album from Montreal-based Greg Halpin delivers exactly what its title suggests: slice of life observational songs recorded in a makeshift bedroom studio. The 13 tracks are arranged almost exclusively for acoustic guitar, alternating between heart-felt strumming and lively finger-picking. This instrumental austerity does get tedious at times. The odd harmonica or whistling solos aren’t enough to keep listeners engaged all the way through the longer compositions. Continue reading “Greg Halpin “Notes from a Bedroom” (Independent, 2016)”

Emma Tricca and Jason McNiff “Southern Star” (Dell’Orso Records, 2016)

Tricca-McNiff-2016This long-planned collaboration between two stalwarts of the London folk scene, Emma Tricca and Jason McNiff, delivered six songs that combine the feelings of melancholy and excitement one associates with travel. In case the imagery of trains and celestial navigation isn’t enough to send listeners on a journey, Tricca and McNiff namecheck New York, London, Paris, and Rome, letting their obvious affection for these cities shine through. Continue reading “Emma Tricca and Jason McNiff “Southern Star” (Dell’Orso Records, 2016)”

Pete Falloon “Reed in the River” (Independent, 2016)

Pete-Falloon-2016Devonian multi-instrumentalist Pete Falloon debuts as a solo artist with a satisfying album that’s all meat and no filler. ‘Reed in the River’ is an eclectic proposition that sounds folky in its acoustic warmth of mandolin and brushes on the snare drum (Paul Everest on drums) but also groovy with punchy bass lines and bongos.
Falloon’s previous collaborations include a duo with his brother, Mathew (appropriately named Brothers Falloon). Despite the new solo billing, Pete didn’t abandon him. Mathew is the bassist on the record and contributes so many other instrumentation and singing elements, that one can only imagine the brothers are musically inseparable. Continue reading “Pete Falloon “Reed in the River” (Independent, 2016)”

Lisa Bastoni ”The Wishing Hour” (Independent, 2017)

lisa-bastoni-2017Lisa Bastoni has been around a while, performing with acclaimed artists such as Little Big Town, Lori McKenna and Regina Spektor. After taking an extended break to have a family, she is back with this amazing record, due to be released early in 2017. With every song penned by her, and a few co-writes, this is a record with the Bastoni stamp all over it, and with much of the recordings being done at home as well as in studios in Nashville and New York, there is a very intimate feel to this record, helped by the excellent production by Felix McTeigue. Continue reading “Lisa Bastoni ”The Wishing Hour” (Independent, 2017)”

David Simard “The Heavy Wait” (Independent, 2016)

david-simard-2016The second full length alum by Vancouverian David Simard is a dark toned thing.  Mordant meditations on love to a funereal accompaniment are the grist that fills David Simard’s mill. So much so that when he deviates from the template – as he does whilst rapping BP on the knuckles for their polluting ways in his native Canada on Good Clean Water – it’s something of a jarring shock that he can be so jovial. For the rest of the album he adopts a sombre and serious facade – with a deep baritone pouring the words out like a treacle river falling over a grit stone waterfall. Continue reading “David Simard “The Heavy Wait” (Independent, 2016)”